Eastern Europe: A new player in emerging Europe
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Eastern Europe: A new player in emerging Europe

Just last spring, Raiffeisen Zentralbank, or RZB, had virtually no profile in the capital-markets industry of eastern Europe; the bank was known mainly in its domestic market, Austria, where it is a high-street bank with 2,500 branches. Last year the London office of RZB took up only a few floors of a non-descript building on a tiny side street. But over the past few months, the bank has shaken off its sleepy origins and has started actively poaching staff from larger firms and aggressively expanding into sales, trading, research and, more recently, investment banking.

The foundation of its sudden explosion onto the European emerging capital markets has been its extensive commercial banking business throughout the region. Howard Palmer, assistant general manager of RZB in London, describes the transition: "We started trade-financing things like sugar-beet production. That may be an extremely unglamorous business for other City firms, but it let us get our foot into the door at a very early stage. As the markets developed, we then moved on to securities trading and winning finance mandates."

RZB, the central institution of the Austrian Raiffeisen Banking group holds assets of nearly $100 billion and employs worldwide about 2,500 staff.

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